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Old September 27th, 2011, 05:25 PM   #1

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Saxon Ships


I've been pondering this for some time: what kind of ships did the Saxons, Angles, and Jutes use to come to England in the 5th century, and what ships did they use from then on until the Norman conquest? In the popular imagination, the Saxons are seen as going about in Longships, though didn't that come later than the 5th century? And if they did not use Longships, then what did they use?
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Old September 28th, 2011, 01:33 AM   #2
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The best example of a 4th century boat that we have is the remarkably well preserved 23 metre long Nydam ship from the weapons sacrifice at Nydam Mose in Jutland.

http://www.abc.se/~pa/mar/img/danmark/nydam2004.jpg
Nydam_Mose Nydam_Mose


This particular ship appears to have been built in Sweden and was used on raids in Jutland and on the island of Fyn but it is probably very similar to those used by the Chauci of the 3rd cent. and the Saxons and Franks from the 4th cent onwards during their raids along the Gallic coast.

It doesn't have a mast but is designed to strike up rivers from the sea. The side hung rudder can be moved from one end to the other and the tholes, for the oars, can be reversed. This means that this long vessel does not need to be turned around in narrow rivers and can be easily readied for a quick exit before the raid is executed. They were a constant problem for the romans along the coats of Gaul and Britain. The Franks were even reputed to have established a pirate base in the Mediterranean in the late 3rd cent.

The slightly longer Sutton Hoo ship, circa 600 AD also shows no sign of a mast although its deeper keel may have allowed for one to be used. By the end of 700s, sails were common. The viking longship however was still a military vessel and used, like the Nydam ship, for coastal raiding, usually by establishing a base and then raiding inland. They used other boats such as the Knarr for carrying cargos.

Last edited by authun; September 28th, 2011 at 02:01 AM.
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Old September 28th, 2011, 03:45 PM   #3

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Quote:
Originally Posted by authun View Post
The best example of a 4th century boat that we have is the remarkably well preserved 23 metre long Nydam ship from the weapons sacrifice at Nydam Mose in Jutland.

http://www.abc.se/~pa/mar/img/danmark/nydam2004.jpg
Nydam Mose - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


This particular ship appears to have been built in Sweden and was used on raids in Jutland and on the island of Fyn but it is probably very similar to those used by the Chauci of the 3rd cent. and the Saxons and Franks from the 4th cent onwards during their raids along the Gallic coast.

It doesn't have a mast but is designed to strike up rivers from the sea. The side hung rudder can be moved from one end to the other and the tholes, for the oars, can be reversed. This means that this long vessel does not need to be turned around in narrow rivers and can be easily readied for a quick exit before the raid is executed. They were a constant problem for the romans along the coats of Gaul and Britain. The Franks were even reputed to have established a pirate base in the Mediterranean in the late 3rd cent.

The slightly longer Sutton Hoo ship, circa 600 AD also shows no sign of a mast although its deeper keel may have allowed for one to be used. By the end of 700s, sails were common. The viking longship however was still a military vessel and used, like the Nydam ship, for coastal raiding, usually by establishing a base and then raiding inland. They used other boats such as the Knarr for carrying cargos.
Thanks, I was not aware that sails weren't used commonly until after 700, that sounds rather odd, given the contact with the Romans before then. And when did Viking longships come into the Saxons' use?
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Old September 29th, 2011, 02:29 AM   #4
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We don't have an unbroken series of shipwrecks which allows us to create an exact chronology of development. For roman ships we do have coins and mosaics however which help to fill in some gaps. eg:

GALLERIA NAVALE - IMMAGINE
GALLERIA NAVALE - IMMAGINE

Most roman ships were oar driven and even where masts were fitted, the sails were more an aid rather than the primary means of propulsion. Sails may well have been a development for carrying cargos or for long passages where the ships did not require the manoeuvrability required by naval vessels.

You can see from these reliefs that the warships used oars:

GALLERIA NAVALE - IMMAGINE
http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/...2_triremes.jpg
http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/.../aplustria.jpg

The problem was that sails were not that efficient for military combat. The romans suffered greatly from attacks by the Saxons and Franks along the Gallic coast and eventually had to task a Menapian, a tribe of Belgic Gaul, called Carausius with building a fleet to deal with them. The oar driven ships were simply better in combat situations, which were mostly up and down the coasts.

When longer passages became necessary, direct crossings over the north sea as opposed to short crossing of the narrower English Channel, the requirement for sails became greater. The north european tradition of building clinker hulls meant that the frames used were fewer and the overall weight of the boat was lighter. Sails and sailing became more efficient.

As stated above, we do not have an unbroken sequence of development but many think that the Kvalsund ship, dated to around 700 AD, was the first purpose built sailing ship:

The Viking Longship
introduction to Nautical Archaeology Notes - Kvalsund Ship

based on it's reinforced keel. No mast was found.

It is important to recognise that the military longship is a development of a northern european clinker shipbuilding tradition, it is not specific to vikings. Clinker built boats date back to the Hjortspring boat, about 400 BC:

Hjortspring_boat Hjortspring_boat

of which many are depicted on scandinavian rock carvings which date back to the nordic bronze age:

http://www.ssfpa.se/images/billedarkiv_dk/Lensgard.jpg

These appear throughout Scandinavia

The cargo carrying viking boats, the Knarr, develop after the viking age into the Hanseatic Cog

Cog (ship) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

and the clinker tradition still continues in boats such as the Northumbrian Coble:

http://www.tomorrows-history.com/pro...en%20Gleam.jpg
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Old September 29th, 2011, 03:31 AM   #5
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You may be interested in this video on youtube, it's the 2nd of a 4 part series:


Your question about how the Scandinavians relate to the Saxons is an age old one and two theories exist, firstly that the germanic speaking world developed out of the Jastorf culture in northern Germany and secondly, that is developed out of the nordic bronze age.

Tacitus appears to suggest the latter in his Germania:

"For, in former times it was not by land but on shipboard that those who sought to emigrate would arrive; and the boundless and, so to speak, hostile ocean beyond us, is seldom entered by a sail from our world."

He also briefly mentions the sea faring prowess of the Suiones:

"Next occur the communities of the Suiones, situated in the ocean itself; and besides their strength in men and arms, very powerful at sea. The form of their vessels varies thus far from ours, that they have prows at each end, so as to be always ready to row to shore without turning nor are they moved by sails, nor on their sides have benches of oars placed, but the rowers ply here and there in all parts of the ship alike, as in some rivers is done, and change their oars from place to place, just as they shift their course hither or thither."


Tacitus is of course writing at the end of the 1st cent. AD but we know that the later Chauci, Saxons and Franks were all powerful seafaring tribes so, irrespective of their utimate origin, we can suppose that they learned shipbuilding from their Scandinavian neighbours. The Jutes and Angles of course were Jutlandic tribes and with coastlines on both the north and baltic seas, we can assume that they were already part of the shipbuilding tradition.
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